Monday, July 21, 2008

Cheap Trips

Good morning! Keith Raffel here.

Last Wednesday’s Journal ran a story headlined “Postcards from the Hedge: Faking a Vacation at Home.” The gist was that people can’t afford to take vacations given the state of the economy and the cost of fuel. So they’re sitting at home on “staycations,” setting up tents in their living rooms. You can even hire a guy to come in and place fresh soaps in your bathroom everyday for a “faux-hotel” experience. That costs about $30 per night.

I want to put forward an idea on how to go practically anywhere for the same price or less.

At the Los Angeles Times Book Fair last year, I sat in a booth with the amazing Cara Black, author of the best-selling Aimée Leduc mysteries. Each is set in a different arrondissement of Paris. Cara called out to passersby like a fishmonger, “Do you want to go to Paris for $14?” Many did and wise they were. Cara’s books transported them there for a few thousand dollars less than climbing on a jet plane and paying for the Plaza Athenée.

If you’re reluctant to spend too many dollars on gas or jet fuel that fills the pockets of the world’s the bad guys, I suggest buying a ticket to wonderful cities for the price of a book. Start reading on page one and you’ve already arrived. That’s not only cheaper, it’s faster than any other way to get there. And with the price of your ticket comes an expert guide.

Each of the books below has a palpable sense of place – the setting itself is a main character. The ten vacation locales below were the first that popped into my mind. Add your favorites in the comments, please! I’ve been to Jerusalem and to New York already this summer and am not getting on another plane. But I am standing by to travel by Air Fiction. Give me and others suggestions to satisfy our wanderlust.

New York City: Jack Finney lays out his method for free travel in and around NYC in Time and Again.

Sweden: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is not available in the U.S. yet, but if you’re hankering for a summer trip to cool Sweden, order this book from the U.K.

Tokyo: Barry Eisler spends months making sure he gets every detail of Tokyo just right in his John Rain books.

Oxford: I lived in Oxford for two years and no one gets it better than the late Michael Dibdin in Dirty Tricks. Wait.... Dorothy Sayers gives Dibdin a run for his money in Gaudy Night.

Moscow: Martin Cruz Smith plops you right into Red Square in, of course, Red Square.

London: I lived in London for a month or so just around the corner from Baker Street. I could feel the presence of the great detective. Whenever I want to go back, I just pick up a Sherlock Holmes story.

Australian Outback: Adrian Hyland reminds us that the Outback is not a pretty place in his Diamond Dove.

Chicago: So many choices for a guide but who better than Stuart Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman?

Los Angeles: When reading Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, I became an African-American in Watts.

San Francisco: If you prefer the 1930’s, let Dashiell Hammett by your guide in The Maltese Falcon. If you’d rather go today, engross yourself in Stealing the Dragon by Mr. Hammett’s twenty-first century heir, Tim Maleeny.

P.S. If you want to read about my five days at ThrillerFest last week hanging out with fellow Inksters Joe, Lynn, Mark, Tim, and others, click here.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Keith, great posts about Air Fiction and Thrillerfest. Loved the photos of the bar rats.

For more Los Angeles travel, read Denise Hamilton's Eve Diamond series; for LA County in the 70's try Brimstone Murders by Jeff Sherratt; Orange County, CA is well represented in any T. Jefferson Parker novel.

Joe Moore said...

Great post, Keith. See you next year on the "S" line.

Mark Combes said...

Don't forget David Hewson and his Nic Costa series. Rome like you've never seen it - especially if you've never been to Rome.

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith! Can you mention Oxford without mentioning Inspector Morse? Well, I guess you can, because you just did.

Sounds/looks like Thrillerfest was a blast.

Keith Raffel said...

Mark, don't know how I forgot David right after seeing him at ThrillerFest! Gin, I love Colin Dexter's series, but that's primarily because of the character of Morse, not because they are set in the city of gleaming spires. Good suggestions, Sue Ann. See ya, Joe.